Man at His Best

How Old Is Too Old to Be at the Club?

Esquire US' resident Old Guys™ discuss.

BY Luke O'neil and Dave Holmes | Jul 20, 2017 | Culture

There comes a moment when you find yourself jostled around in a sea of wasted partiers, the music blasting too loudly, and you think to yourself: Ok, that's enough for me. I think I'll stay in tomorrow and catch up on some Netflix. And then you stay in the next night. And all of the rest of the nights.

We each reach this sad epiphany in our own time, but in general, it tends to come in one's early thirties, when starting a family and taking your job more seriously—not to mention the length of hangovers—begin to take precedence. A recent survey from U.K. company Currys & PC World found as much. They asked over five thousand people questions about their going out habits, and 46 percent of respondents said they actually dread the idea of going out and prefer to stay home in front of their TVs or laptops. (Of course, this is coming from a computer company, so take it with a grain of salt.)

There are all sorts of reasons people give for hanging up their nightlife spurs, from expenses, to the hassle of finding something to wear, to arranging a babysitter. But by and large, they agreed, there is an age cut off for when it's time to give up: 37. But what's worse for those of us on the wrong side of the appropriate clubbing age equator, 37 percent of respondents said, "There is nothing more tragic than seeing adults in their forties and fifties surrounded by twenty-somethings in pubs and bars." Yikes.

In order to process this information, certified Esquire Old Guys™ Luke O'Neil and Dave Holmes talked about how it feels to have one foot in the going-out grave.

THE DEBATE

Luke: Hello Dave. Apparently we're the resident old guys, and I'm not exactly sure if that's an insult or an honour, to be honest, so it has fallen upon us to tangle with this thorny matter. How old is too old to be at the club?

Dave: Hello Luke! Yes, indeed we are the token olds at Esquire, which is neither an insult nor an honour, but just a fact. (Though it happened much more quickly than I ever could have imagined, and I take great pleasure in sending this message to the young people of this office and the world: It will happen to you, too.)

Luke: Normally I wouldn't pay attention to this sort of survey, which isn't scientific and seems to be some sort of branding thing for a U.K. computer company, but it was something that was on my mind this week. I had a moment the other night where I felt a little self-consciousness kick in. I went to see Every Time I Die, who absolutely rip, and I was there outside of the circle pit, drinking my beer like a perfectly normal 40-year-old at the all ages hardcore show, and I was thinking: The floor is so wet with beer, someone's gonna slip and get hurt! But after a few songs I thought, fuck it, I'm going in.

Dave: I am delighted at the thought of you—any old person, actually—in a mosh pit. Please don't stop.

Luke: I bumped into a friend of mine who's 24, we hugged, and then I got sucked into the crowd. It was exhilarating. Of course, I didn't stay too long, because I have a bad back and no way I am gonna let some dumbass crowd surf into my spine, but it reminded me how little it really matters how old you are when it comes to music like that. Or going out in general. Have you felt self-conscious about being out lately?

"IT REMINDED ME HOW LITTLE IT REALLY MATTERS HOW OLD YOU ARE WHEN IT COMES TO MUSIC LIKE THAT. OR GOING OUT IN GENERAL." —LUKE

Dave: I have felt too old to be in clubs since I was 22 years old. Now, when I say "clubs," I mean dancey places: DJs and lasers and women in bikini tops selling brightly-colored shots in test tubes. Places where people come from the hinterlands in their shiniest going-out shirt and most lacquered hair to pump a fist and do a twirl. I gave that life a good old shake for about one year and then I decided it wasn't for me. After the club life ended, I hung out with friends in bars. But about 10 years ago, I took a look around, saw that everyone was a good decade younger than me, and felt a wave of shame and nausea.

Luke: How often are you still going out anyway?

Dave: At 46, I am too old to be anywhere after dark. My friends and I meet on Saturdays at 4 p.m. We have a local gastropub where we drink wine and graze on fancy bites, and we get as drunk as we would have in our twenties, but we are home in soft clothing watching Chef's Table by 8 p.m. at the latest. We are the people who are leaving when our former selves are arriving, and we see the withering looks they give us, and we just do not care, because, again: It will happen to them too.

Luke: I'm laughing at the idea that it's illegal for you to be out after dark. Cops driving around directing anyone who remembers the Dead Kennedys back into their homes to power down.

Dave: Is there an age at which you think you might be too old?

Luke: I have this memory that haunts me to this day from college. Some friends and I were at a gas station parking lot, and some guy was driving like a dick, and we exchanged words. I pulled out the big guns to roast him: Dude, what are you, 30? That will probably be the last thought that goes through my mind when I'm laying on my death bed, succumbing to injuries sustained in a mosh pit at 65 years old.

Dave: Here is a memory that haunts me: When I turned 30, a slightly younger friend asked me how I was feeling about it. I said, "Good. I think I was born to be in my 30s." He replied, "So what are you going to do when you're 40?" I don't talk to that guy anymore, but his words resonate. I'm going to be 50 in about a half hour, and I'm still going to want to go out from time to time. I don't know what I'm going to do about it, but I suspect I'll do what every 50-year-old at the rock show does: Just not notice how fucking old I am.

Luke: I have noticed a sharp decline in the number of nights a week I go out lately. For most of my life, I was going to two to three shows a week, every week. Part of that was being a musician and a music journalist, but to be honest, it's really the place I feel more comfortable than anywhere else in the world. I actually feel older when I'm in normal polite society, a place I really don't know how to act in. I guess it sounds like a cliché, but I still believe in the welcoming community aspect of indie and punk music scenes. That doesn't mean when I'm at an all ages show and I'm old enough to be the entire crowd's (very young and cool) father I don't get a twinge of weirdness.

I have always been too old for the stereotypical club scene, too. Or maybe just not horny enough? Feel like you have to be operating on a horny level that's outside of my wheelhouse to be able to spend too much time in a Miami or Vegas-style bottle service jizz-pool club. I did have a pretty good cocaine phase going there for a while in my twenties, but all that ever made me want to do was go sit in someone's tiny kitchen next to the cat shit box and talk about doing more cocaine.

Dave: Luckily, I was largely able to avoid cocaine, which is what allows people to last longer than I did, and why the streets of our major metropolitan areas are filled with dead-eyed middle-aged men in tank tops.

Luke: I've been to plenty of smaller, more music-focused indie dance clubs well into my late thirties where it's more about enjoying the music and actually dancing and there's still no feeling like the energy when it goes off and a room full of people are moving together.

Dave: As for rock shows, I have never felt too old because I have always had the musical taste of a middle-aged man. My first significant show was Tommy Keene at Mississippi Nights in St. Louis when I was 15. Everyone else in the crowd was a power-pop guy in his 30s, and if you think comic book guys are bad, you have not met power-pop guys. Now, I see acts like The Hold Steady and Frank Turner, and the crowd is mostly guys my age, on their one night out a month, howling like wolves. I feel very much at home.

"WE ARE THE PEOPLE WHO ARE LEAVING WHEN OUR FORMER SELVES ARE ARRIVING, AND WE SEE THE WITHERING LOOKS THEY GIVE US, AND WE JUST DO NOT CARE."—DAVE

Luke: That is a genius workaround, having lifelong Dad Rock taste. I think I might have installed a self-destruct button into my whole situation by having the taste of a 17-year-old sad mall teen my entire life. Should have planned this thing out better. Although that's sort of changing since Dad Emo and Divorcecore are kind of having a big moment right now.

Do you think there's any difference in the gay clubbing scene than in the straight one?

Dave: Oh, I've been too old to hang out in gay clubs since I was 17. And that's okay, because the music in most gay clubs is abysmal. Did you know that every Britney Spears song has about 42 remixes? I DO.

When I was navigating gay nightlife in my early twenties, there were few middle-aged men in the clubs, but a lot of that is because there were few middle-aged men; AIDS decimated the generation just ahead of mine. My peers are really the first to reach middle age as openly gay men in large numbers, and as such, we have no blueprint for our nightlife. There is now a large and growing "bear" community, which embraces older men and higher body-mass indices, and the music there is slightly better, but there's a lot of flannel, and the guys say "woof" every fifth word, so I engage with it cautiously.

Luke: Does it seem like there's more or less acceptance of being the older dude lurking around?

Dave: Young or old, gay or straight, there is very little acceptance of being the dude lurking around. Lurking in general is frowned upon. Are the people interviewed in this study lurking? Is that the problem? Maybe don't lurk. Maybe just hang out and have fun and talk to strangers confidently, because who cares if they reject you? They'll be old and weird sooner than they think.

From: Esquire US

 


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